Last month Finance Minister Pravin Gordhan delivered an inspiring Budget speech and 2016 Budget that works hard to address the concerns of inefficient public spending, beleaguered SOEs, the need for new and maintained infrastructure, and promoting inclusion and transformation in the economy. It was a tall order, with potential ratings agency downgrades looming, and in the face of widespread protests about access to higher education and service delivery. Hitachi Data Systems (HDS) commends the minister and the National Treasury on addressing so many of the competing priorities facing our economy today.

The next step, we believe, is for companies and organisations to work to support these economy-growing initiatives and policies, and to move towards modernising our work places and infrastructure for an information-empowered economy. For this, we see huge potential in the use of connected technologies and Internet of Things (IoT) implementations enabling critical social innovation in South Africa. Social innovation is powered by technologies that can be combined to produce a solution for the greater good of society, which can be implemented across verticals, such as education, health, transport and logistics and many more.


1. Public safety monitoring and response

The 2016 Budget has earmarked R204 billion in 2018/19 for defence, public order and safety services. An amount of R598 million is specifically allocated to enhancing capacity of Public Order Policing units. As has been noted, this is not just about policing large protests, but general crowd management and responsive policing for public safety. By using the video and data analysis tools coming into the market as a layer on top of pooled private and public video feeds – in our city and business centres, for example – we can assist this important function. For more details on the capabilities of these systems, see here.

Tools, like the Hitachi Visualization Platform (HVP), can run multiple process and direct policing when and where it is needed. For example, it enables gunshot detection and license-plate recognition, as well as video-management system, access control, and computer-aided dispatch (CAD) that can plug into existing emergency systems. Not only that, but cameras in our public spaces, and even in our patrol vehicles and on police personnel uniforms, will promote accountability and transparency. When combined with GPS location in our patrolling units, these tools would give our police service the power to respond to incidents quickly and efficiently, promoting overall public safety.

2. 21st century transport systems

The need to connect our cities and get people to and from work efficiently is an important one – for transforming and growing our economy. Minister Gordhan tabled R292 billion for improving and expanding transport infrastructure over the next three years, including R18 billion specifically for bus rapid transport (BRT) systems in cities. But developing the infrastructure is just one part of the puzzle. The reliable performance of these systems is another important aspect – and this can be supported through targeted implementation of data collection and analysis.

In the UK, for example, a major project is underway to convert the existing decades-old diesel, intercity train system to electric trains using innovative technology (such as equipping the trains with sensors) and backed by proactive data-led interventions (like pre-emptive maintenance, based on sensor data). Not only are the new trains built for speed and safety, they produce lower C02 emissions. The system is based on the Japanese bullet train system which has saved an estimated 400 million hours for commuters – an economic impact of around 500 billion yen per year[i].

While capital costs are a given, IoT integration can deliver true value for money. In the UK rail project even the business model has been transformed – Hitachi will invest in the trains or rolling stock on the system while Network Rail (the UK body that runs the rail system) will pay only for “on-time service” which is delivered using real-time monitoring and world-class analysis and control systems. Imagine the economic impact this kind of on-time, fast and clean city-linking rail – or a similar BRT system in our cities – could have in South Africa.

3. Integrated health

Another applicable example is the implementation of connected health systems. And here we have a local case study to draw from, with Mediclinic Southern Africa having recently implemented a solution for their centralised electronic patient record (EPR) system – specifically Hitachi Clinical Repository (HCR). By making detailed, unified and secure patient data available across over 50 Mediclinic locations, this health services company ensures that their physicians have access to the most relevant and up-to-date clinical and non-clinical information on patients, no matter which location they seek assistance in.

With R28 billion in the budget for health, and the rollout of the National Health insurance (NHI) system on the horizon, connected health is one way of supporting the goal of universal, quality healthcare for South Africans. For the full case study on the Mediclinic implementation, click here.

The data we’re now able to harness from our increasingly connected world can help private firms and public entities make better, quicker decisions, and ultimately support national priorities like health, transport and public safety. And with business working together towards the same goals as government, we can bring solutions for the real world that make good on the potential of the aspects of the Internet of Things that really matter.

Stuart Cheverton is HDS’s Business Development Manager in Content, Cloud & Mobility for Emerging Markets, EMEA.